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Film / The Captain Hates the Sea

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The Captain Hates the Sea is a 1934 comedy film directed by Lewis Milestone, set aboard a cruise ship (reminiscent of The Love Boat 40 years later) on a voyage to South America. Characters aboard the cruise include:

  • The titular Captain Helquist, who does indeed hate the sea, and only became a sailor after his father chucked him out of the house for playing a prank.
  • Steve Bramley (John Gilbert) an alcoholic newspaperman and failed screenwriter who is taking the cruise in an effort to dry out and get started on a novel.
  • Schulte (Victor McLaglen), a former policeman turned private eye, who is pursuing Danny Checkett, a crook whom Schulte thinks is carrying $250,000 in stolen bonds.
  • Janet Grayson, an innocent librarian who turns out to be more than she seems.
  • Mrs. Yolanda Magruder, a wealthy, late-middle-aged widow looking for a good time.
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  • Mr. and Mrs. Jeddock. Mrs. Jeddock is an ex-prostitute who left the life to get married, and Mr. Jeddock is a businessman who seems to regret the idea and is constantly screaming at and verbally abusing his wife, for fear of her embarrassing past.
  • General Salazaro, a South American general sailing back to his country in order to forment revolution.
  • The Three Stooges, who are there.

The Captain Hates the Sea was a flop for Columbia. It didn't do well at the box office, and the decision to film on an actual cruise ship instead of on sound stages meant the studio took a bath financially. It is best remembered today for being the last film of John Gilbert, a huge star in the silent era who saw his career swiftly collapse with the coming of talking films. Gilbert drank himself to death, dying a little over a year after the release of this film at the age of 36 from a heart attack brought on by severe alcohol abuse.

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Tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Steve. The idea is for him to dry out and start writing, but he's drunk when he gets on the boat, keeps drinking all the way through the cruise, and is drunk when he gets off. It's hard to say whether Steve's intoxication is a result of Gilbert being a good actor or Gilbert actually being drunk during filming.
  • Butt-Monkey: Layton the steward, who seems to exist mainly for the captain to yell at.
  • Call-Back: When the Jeddocks are boarding the cruise, Mr. Jeddock screams at Goldie for having the effrontery to trip on the gangway. When they're leaving, he trips and she yells at him.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs. Magruder, who doesn't give a crap about anything, angrily defends Goldie when another guest at table gets snooty, and ends up winning Danny as a boy toy.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: This was the first film The Three Stooges made for Columbia, where they would become famous as stars in a long line of comic short films. Here, they are the ship's band, basically backdrop characters, and only Larry has a line.
  • Ensemble Cast: Each of the main players gets their own screen time for their story.
  • Fatal Family Photo: An after-the-fact example. After Salazaro is shot there is a closeup of his hat with a picture of his son inside.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: When Janet gets alone with Danny and is revealed to be not a sweet librarian but his partner in crime, this is emphasized by her whipping out a cigarette and puffing away.
  • Happily Failed Suicide: Goldie jumps overboard, but is fished out by Schulte. She seems a lot happier at the end when she's browbeating her husband.
  • High-Class Glass: Major Warringforth wears one, apparently to emphasize how very very British he is.
  • Jerkass: Mr. Jeddock, who spends most of the film screaming at Goldie and humiliating her.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The Jeddocks' story climaxes when Mr. Jeddock freaks out in the dining room and starts screaming about Goldie being a hooker. He is promptly arrested and put in restraints, whereupon Goldie beats him upside the head with a blackjack provided by Schulte. The last scene (see Call-Back above) shows that the power relationship between them has been completely reversed.
  • Love Triangle: Danny and Janet/Blanche are an item but she winds up falling for Schulte.
  • Mood Whiplash: See Shot at Dawn below—Salazaro's execution comes out of nowhere and feels out of place in what is mostly a light comedy.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Steve is a reporter and failed screenwriter, not an actor, but John Gilbert playing an alcoholic Hollywood burnout hits a little too close to home.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Schulte comes off as a lummox that is stupidly falling for Janet's manipulation, but the scene in which he pulls out her rap sheet reveals he's much smarter than Janet and Danny realize.
  • Outlaw Couple: Danny and Janet are one, and she's the one who is carrying the bonds. Her rap sheet reveals that she uses "Blanche Dilworthy" and "Michigan Red" as aliases.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Janet wears one for dinner.
  • Shot at Dawn: It turns out General Salazaro's revolution already happened, and failed. He is met at the dock and taken straight to his execution.
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